Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, October 15, 2018

"Men" Is Not A Group Capable of Taking Action

As a child, I recall suffering from the delusion that all adults were in league against me and in constant communication. If my mom asked me "How was school today?" it was doubtless because she already knew about the difficulty I had had with my teacher that afternoon. If my teacher asked, "Did anyone have trouble with the homework assignment?" it seemed obvious that she somehow knew about the fuss I'd kicked in front of my parents over doing it.

One of the problems with the "identity group" approach to politics and thinking is that it engages in a similar kind of thinking, but applied at an even unlikelier grand scale.

A prime example of this was a Washington Post editorial from a few days ago, in which the author opens with an account of yelling at her husband about the misdeeds of men:
I yelled at my husband last night. Not pick-up-your-socks yell. Not how-could-you-ignore-that-red-light yell. This was real yelling. This was 30 minutes of from-the-gut yelling. Triggered by a small, thoughtless, dismissive, annoyed, patronizing comment. Really small. A micro-wave that triggered a hurricane. I blew. Hard and fast. And it terrified me. I’m still terrified by what I felt and what I said. I am almost 70 years old. I am a grandmother. Yet in that roiling moment, screaming at my husband as if he represented every clueless male on the planet (and I every angry woman of 2018), I announced that I hate all men and wish all men were dead. If one of my grandchildren yelled something that ridiculous, I’d have to stifle a laugh.

My husband of 50 years did not have to stifle a laugh. He took it dead seriously. He did not defend his remark, he did not defend men. He sat, hunched and hurt, and he listened. For a moment, it occurred to me to be grateful that I’m married to a man who will listen to a woman. The winds calmed ever so slightly in that moment. And then the storm surge welled up in me as I realized the pathetic impotence of nice men’s plan to rebuild the wreckage by listening to women. As my rage rushed through the streets of my mind, toppling every memory of every good thing my husband has ever done (and there are scores of memories), I said the meanest thing I’ve ever said to him: Don’t you dare sit there and sympathetically promise to change. Don’t say you will stop yourself before you blurt out some impatient, annoyed, controlling remark. No, I said, you can’t change. You are unable to change. You don’t have the skills and you won’t do it. You, I said, are one of the good men. You respect women, you believe in women, you like women, you don’t hit women or rape women or in any way abuse women. You have applauded and funded feminism for a half-century. You are one of the good men. And you cannot change. You can listen all you want, but that will not create one iota of change.

In the centuries of feminist movements that have washed up and away, good men have not once organized their own mass movement to change themselves and their sons or to attack the mean-spirited, teasing, punching thing that passes for male culture. Not once. Bastards. Don’t listen to me. Listen to each other. Talk to each other. Earn your power for once.
Why have good men not taken the trouble to make other men stop treating women badly? Why do good Catholics not end the sexual abuse scandal? Why have good Muslims not made bad Muslims stop committing terrorism?

The fact is, these identity groups which are bandied about so freely are large. Larger, really, than we can conceive of. There are over 3.5 billion men in the world. How many have I met? And even of the people I have met, how great is my ability to bend people to my will, getting them to follow the moral laws that I believe in.

We each have a solemn duty to teach others and lead others towards leading a virtuous life. This duty is serious. Damned serious. Literally. When we sin against others or lead others into sin, we trifle with their and our damnation. And yet each choice is a battle in a war that we will not win this side of eternity. It is not a matter of just getting all men together at their secret clubhouse and getting them to resolve to behave morally. It can't be done. "Men" are not a group which it's possible to change in concrete fashion. We have a duty to teach and enjoin those we have influence over to behave virtuously, and yet even as we do that with all seriousness we must also realize that we will not in a day, a year, a century win the war against evil and be able to settle back in a world where it no longer occurs.

Meanwhile, it deserves to be said: If you find yourself yelling at individual people you know, not because of what they themselves do but because they belong to a vast group which you believe is acting badly in some sense, you are no longer treating the person in front of you as a person. You are treating them as a representative of a group that you resent as a group. And that is wrong.

6 comments:

Gertrude Broom-Wielder said...

So very well said. This is an issue I have been trying to confront, in my own I-hate-confrontation way. However valuable statistics and generalities and trends can be, each individual is just that, an individual, and deserves the respect of being treated as one. Statistics are very useful for identifying large-scale issues, both positive and negative, but tell us nothing about how to resolve a specific situation with a specific individual.

Foxfier said...

Only issue I have is that the original complaint about "moderate Muslims" is active support of terror groups-- think like the Irish Catholics who sent money to the IRA.
It's a serious issue because folks who have no apparent ties to the guys who are shooting at you, and who might themselves be blown up by members of the group, will still give levels of support that in US legal terms would be "accessories to a crime" type aid-and-comfort.

I have no idea if it's been hijacked for other uses, only folks I talk to are military/tactical-political consideration types.

Very obviously, not what that poor victim of emotional abuse in the paper has done.

Foxfier said...

(Short version of 'why' for those interested-- mostly boils down to a cultural issue, they're more 'tribal' than we are. Picture the movies where aliens are invading a place, and the cops and gangs both stop fighting and attack the aliens. We got some old quote about it, something like me against my brother, my brother and I against my cousin, and my cousin and I against the world?)

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Wow. I feel so sorry for that woman's husband.

Foxfier said...

I first saw the article mentioned in a facebook group.

Was brought up by one of the folks who specializes in helping abused spouses...his reaction is dang near textbook for an abused spouse. Several other folks piped up that it'd been their reaction, too.

You abuse them in such a way that they feel like it is their fault, and they deserve far worse than you ever do.

(It's possible the gal is indulging in dramatic license. I really hope so.)

Agnes said...

The problem is not jsut the fact that it is wrong to accuse one particular individual with sins committed by other members of a group he belongs to. The even worse manipulative falsehood is to choose and condemn a particular group of people and a particular type of wrongdoing as if it was the cause of all wrongness in the world. Some men may laugh together at womenderisively. And some women also hurt and humiliate other people - not necessarily based on sex. "Men" as a group are not worse than "women" as a group. "Hungarians" are not better or worse than "Romanians" or "Americans" or "Germans". And apparently, the sense of being, as a woman, the abused party gives her leave to be as unjust and abusive as she pleases. So the abuse and hurt just perpetuates...